Jeff Schutts, a history professor at Langara College, speaks about the culture of consumerism from Nazi Germany to the present.
2011 World Peace Forum, Vancouver-Canada
This PDD thesis attempts not just to show the pitfalls of our present political system, but offers a realistic framework of a new Citizen’s Constitution.
It suggests that statutory changes and constitutional laws need to resonate and harmonize with a Citizen’s needs. It also suggests a shift from a system based in political and economic competition, where money begetting money is the biggest aim of activities, into a system where providing social services becomes the collective responsibility and the main purpose of society.
This PDD framework is not a monolithic program to be literally followed, but only a set of observations and practical suggestions in the midst of our precarious time. We are nothing more than transitory observers and participants, and we could do better by recognizing the evolving ‘Social Consciousness’ as the guiding supreme authority.
We must keep in mind that by submitting our individual opinions for examination, discussion, and tabulation, on an established official poll, we will produce a social consciousness.
This booklet offers the author’s perspective, limited to his understanding; therefore it is not presumed to be a final rule. PDD is suggested only as a starting contribution to a larger solution where we all participate to develop a perpetual direct democracy.
6.1 – Perpetual Direct Democracy.
Democracy, in principle, is not a new idea. It has been understood as a political power “from the people, by the people, for the people” since ancient Greece to the American Constitution. For over two thousand years democracy has evolved, in most nations.
It starts as an exclusive right for property owning men, and evolves into a universal membership including all men and women of all races, in most nations.
What is new in PDD is that it advances the evolution of democracy, this time shifting the political power from the traditional representative democracy, “RD” to all the citizens: directly and perpetually. This two new factors make PDD a relatively new system.
6.2 – Reassigning Political Responsibility.
So far we have seen how, in the current RD, citizens’ decision making is allowed only one day out of more than a thousand days. PDD means to reclaim the citizens’ right to have every day as citizens’ decision making day, not just on election day.
6.3 – Our responsibility to keep political power.
We looked in chapter four, how disconnected the RD elite has been from most of us. However, the purpose of PDD is not just to show our mistake of giving away our political decision making power, to a representative leaders, but PDD means to reclaim the right, the confidence, the ability and the responsibility of all citizens to make all relevant political decisions directly and perpetually.
PDD reveals that our perennial disfunction with government elites, which engage in unwanted wars, erode social services, and mismanage natural resources, is in fact the product of our own misunderstanding about our legal commitment to RD on election day. PDD ideology means that we the citizens, do not give away that political power to make desicions, but hold on to it so we can legislate our own rules.
6.4 – Electing Executive Administrators.
The PDD thesis proposes a system where we will no longer need to elect political leaders like City Councellors, MLAs or MPs. Instead, we will only elect executive administrators for each city department, State Executive Ministers to replace the current Members of the Legislative Assembly, and Executive Federal Co-ministers for each ministry to replace the current Members of Parliament. These executive administrators, Ministers, and Co-Ministers would be perpetually accountable and subordinate to our right to recall them anytime.
6.5 – Trusting Human Nature.
We, the proponents of PDD, optimistically assume that the referendum system will overwhelmingly show a majority of citizens wanting to develop and participate in an egalitarian society.
We also assume that the PDD system will show a cooperative rather than a competitive driving force for our activities.
In other words, we assume that most people want to build a society where the competitive market economy is no longer the driving force of our policies and activities, and that a fair allocation of natural and human resources becomes possible by contributing according to people’s abilities and distributing according to people’s needs.
Finally, we expect that the majority of people will happily legislate and comply with ethnic, religious, and gender human rights granted to all minorities.
6.6 – Fundamental Human Values.
Hopefully, PDD will reflect the most fundamental human values of empathy, equality, justice, security, and ecological conservation.
Understandably, empathy by itself can not be legislated; however, Laws and empathy are indispensable and complementary. Law without empathy is a despotic body. Empathy without laws is a spirit without a body.
For thousands of years, the concept of love has been predicated by Jesus, Tolstoy, Gandhi. and many others who understood empathy, as the spirit of the law and a fundamental element in human relations and survival.
Michel Nagler in his book, “In search for a Nonviolent Future” says that we need to change ourselves, our thoughts, our words, and our deeds in order to change the world.
Adopting racial, cultural, and economic equal rights will free us from hierarchy, exploitation, and oppression. Epidemiologist Richard Wilkinson, in his book “The Spirit Level”, shows how detrimental inequality is to all of us, and why equality is better for everyone.
Christian Andersen illustrated this cultural idolatry of hierarchy and inequality in his 1837 Fairy Tale, “The Emperor Has No Clothes.”
Justice and Security:
Security and Justice of one is the security and justice of all. Security is a mutual fairness in human relations, rather than on the culture of fear, punishment, and retaliation. According to Professor Wilkinson, the more egalitarian a social system is, the less crime it breathes. So, security is directly proportional to economic justice for all.
Ecological justice: Buddhist teachings and native Americans tell us that if we see ourselves as separate beings, unconnected with each other and with the environment, we will eventually destroy the ecosystem and ourselves with it.
6.7 – Peoples’ Legislation.
PDD means to register, discuss, and quantify the mission, statutes, and laws based on an ideological balance between individual liberties and collective freedoms. The results of these registered initiatives, voluntary discussed for a reasonable length of time, and counted on an on-going referendum, will become the peoples’ choice from the ground up, rather than legislation imposed from the government elite down.
6.8 – A Nonviolent Evolution.
Although PDD is a radical change, the shifting process from RD to PDD, does not need to be chaotic, abrupt or violent. PDD appeals to the matureness of citizens to gradually develop the new system in nonviolence, as a natural evolution of democracy.
6.9 – Identifying the peoples’ agenda.
After a conscious realization of our sovereignty from hierarchical politics, the most fundamental step is to clearly define the people’s agenda and write it down into a citizens constitution.
7.1 Build a new system rather than protest the old.
Even if it takes time away from reactionary protests on single issues, let’s organize with the clear intention of building not just political parties or political movements, but to develop the peoples’ ability to register their specific initiatives, and tabulate the consensus on plebiscites. The results of this public plebiscites would be discussed and confirmed by binding referendums to ultimately legislate the values of universal fairness, equality, responsibility, freedom and security.
When a significant number of us adopt PDD as a viable political system, we may decide to create a phantom government, parallel and suplemantary to the existing one.
The Albert Einstein Institution promotes Dr. Gene Sharp’s Methods of Nonviolent Political Action; one of which is: “Dual sovereignty and parallel government.” (Boston: Porter Sargent Publishers, 1973)
7.2 – Co-create Laws with Empathic Intentionality.
To upgrade the current social system, we need to periodically envision and re-develop our procedural framework, our laws. A new political system must be based on a philosophical, humane, ethical, and egalitarian intention.
Empathic intentionality can not be created and dictated by well meaning individuals or benevolent governments. Laws with empathic intentionality must be collectively initiated and mutually consented by all citizens.
Vladimir Lenin, Mao Zedong, Josip Broz Tito, Saddam Hussein, Muammar al-Gaddafi, and many other dictators had a good paternalistic intention to help their people, and they were temporarely successful in implementing a good standad of living for their countries, but because the good intended laws were ruthlessly dictated and enforced from the top of centralized piramids of power, the masses at the base of the piramid suffered human rights abuses inherent in all undemocratic, hierarchical systems of governance.
So, the systemic environment of laws and governance must be generated from people’s initiatives, not from political leaders. PDD will reciprocally influence our individual and collective behavior.
“A world worthy of humanity cannot be created through the state.” John Holloway.
7.3 – Review our Sense of Equality
A basic requirement to this political transformation is the citizens’ conscious realization of equality and sovereignty, independent from hierarchical political structures.
We need to recognize the innate equality in all human beings. We need to realize and dispel the mythological belief in the superiority/inferiority complex, entrenched deeply in our culture.
This delusion is apparent in our admiration for monarchs, arts and sports celebrities, religious and political leaders. This emotional propensity to idolize individuals, generates tribal affiliations and loyalties to crowds of followers rather than fosters independent rational thinking.
When we rely on benevolent dictators or philanthropic magnates to provide for better social services, without questioning the source of their power or wealth, we underestimate and undermine our own abilities.
In fact, leaders are not any wiser in making political decisions for the collective good. We have seen throughout history highly educated and intelligent individuals execute horrendous crimes to humanity by enabling wars and civil coercion. Yet, people continue to admire, trust, and empower leaders as if they were super humans or deities.
We must prevent our rational thinking from getting overwhelmed by our emotional admiration of charismatic personalities. We need to challenge and overcome this cultural mythology. We need to rethink and rebuild our sense of equality.
7.4 – Replace Coercion with Consensus
Democracy can not be established by the tyranny of the majority. The will of the majority must respect and accommodate, as far as possible, the wishes, needs and human rights of minorities.
Although democracy and violence are interrelated forces which determine the outcome of human interactions, we must remember the popular misnomer that WW1 was violently fought to end all wars, this popular belief has repeatedly failed in the past hundred years. Wars violently impose temporary social order, but do not bring social justice and peace.
Mahatma Gandhi said: “ I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary, the evil it does is permanent.”
A few countries, less economically and technologically developed than Canada, have established a Ministry of Peace, with the purpose of developing methods and training student-brigades for nonviolent solutions for conflicts.
We need to learn to solve our conflicts within ourselves and with other nation in a nonviolent approach. We need to replace the misnomered “Humanitarian Intervention” mission of our current Ministry of Defense with a mission of a Ministry of Peace, similar to the one introduced in 2012 in the Canadian Parliament as Bill C-373
7.5 – Overcome The Enemy Syndrome.
We need to overcome the perception of separation between them and us. Them, meaning other nations or our own oppressive government. On the other hand us, meaning the oppressed, defenseless civilians. We must stop blaming our elected rulers for our own political acquiescence or apathy.
It is our responsibility to stop following, acquiescing, and merely protesting the current hierarchical system and business agenda; and start building our own system because ultimately, we are the makers and consumers of superfluous and toxic goods and services, and ultimately, here in Canada, we the people elect the very politician whom we later blame.
“We participate in the breaking of our own doing, the construction of our own subordination.” John Holloway.
As the Pogo Papers described it in 1953:
“We have met the enemy, and he is us.”
7.6 – Conserve The Good and Toss The Bad.
Current laws and government regulations which efficiently distribute goods and services according to need, must be conserved and perhaps enhansed. However, laws which prioritize for-profit businesses, by giving them personhood status, at the expense and detriment of exploited citizens, must be fixed immediately.
We must also give credit and remember with empathy that our influential predecessors created the various political systems and laws with the good intention of organizing our social system. This was created according to the culture and political understanding of their time.
Times and technology have evolved, so we need to graciously upgrade the traditional, hierarchical political ideology of representative democracy into the new PDD.
7.7 – Shift from Competitiveness to Cooperation.
We need to challenge the prevalent importance given to the for-profit-businesses based on the competitiveness of the market economy, as if consumerism and economic competitiveness were the driving force of human activities.
When we transcend the competitive agenda, and it’s propagandized culture, we will realize that a fair distribution of human resources through cooperation is the most civilized motivating force for human activities.
The need of a futuristic moneyless society, as proposed by the Zeitgeist Movement, may be a long term, concrete utopia, but a short term step of gradually depending less on the fee-per-service culture, and more on service according to need and contribution according to abilities ideology, as Karl Marx proposed, is a progressive way to a more egalitarian society. For example a fare-free city transit, a comprehensive, universal, free of charge health care system, etc.
7. 8 – A Matter of Priorities.
We often hear from politicians and the media that the government can not afford to maintain the social services we need. Their reasons for austerity are usually an economic crisis, an economic recession, or just scarcity of money.
Two facts about money of which we must be clear:
First – The economy is not the wealthy provider of social services; the economy is nothing more than an accounting system of transactions. The rules of this accounting system are regulated by tax laws.
Therefore, politicians, in theory, have the responsibility to legislate the collection of as much financial resources as required to provide the best possible social services. If fair and sufficient taxes were collected, no deficits would ever ensue.
However, in practice politicians following the business agenda, instead of collecting enough taxes to balance with the need to fund social services, they legislate reducing or exempting taxes from high earning individuals and from businesses.
Tax cuts obviously create budget deficits and consequently reduction of services. We, the majority of citizens, not a few politicians, need to decide the taxes we pay and the budgets for each ministry.
Second – Most politicians have agreed that we need more social services, “If only we could afford them”.
At the same time however, a few business consultants and a few politicians often prioritize expensive projects, which are profitable to business, instead of financing social services.
We must be clear that poor social services in our society are a matter poor government’s priorities, not a lack of people’s money.
“The only way in which radical change can be conceived today is not as the taking of power but as the dissolution of [centralized] power.”
7.9 – Once we realize the imminent need for social change, the first concrete step is to clearly define the people’s agenda and write it down into a citizens constitution.
The hope is that as a few of us start participating in PDD it will inspire other citizens to perceive their tangible power. Once citizens realize that their input is registered, discussed, and counted, once it is realized that they can genuinely influence the outcome of our collective political decisions, their interest in political participation will also increase.
The Jewish Scholar Hillel
(60 BC – 10 AD) said:
“If not now, when?”
Now is the time because we still have the ability to find a relatively painless change to avoid the predicted economic and ecological catastrophe, because that is where our current political system is headed.
The human brain struggles between emotion and reason. The fears of change from the known to the unknown, coupled with the comfortable inertia of a routine living often eclipses rational perspectives for change to new systems. Historically, social changes like banning child labour, civil rights to abolish segregation and to allow women to vote in North America took many decades to be realized and successfully adopted.
These cultural symptoms continue to affect our political evolution. Even if many of us recognize our readiness and ability to make our own political decisions, many others prefer to hold on to tradition.
Delegating social responsibility to a few political representatives becomes seemingly more convenient to our busy lives. It gives us an illusion of democracy and a relief from the responsibilities of making political decisions.
In this chapter we address a few common excuses people use to avoid participating on social issues, that is our apathy, insecurity, and cynicism of politicians in general, but specially a cultural resistance to change.
8.1 – One of the objections many people have to the existing BC “Recall and Initiative Legislation”, a rudimentary precursor to PDD, is the concern that recalling politicians may bring an unfair job insecurity to politicians, and consequently we would fail to attract the best educated and trained people to legislate our polices.
Addressing the concern of unfairness to politicians, we must remember that recalling faulty consumer goods is a frequent affair, and although it might be economically detrimental to manufactures, recalling of any product is a well accepted as a consumers’ right. Furthermore, dismissing professionals, trade workers, and public or private employees for their unacceptable performance is also a commonly practiced labour standard. So, even if recalling politicians may not appear to be fair to them, politicians deserve equal labour rights treatment.
The financial security of a politician who suddenly loses a political office, needs to be fairly compensated through government employment benefits, available to all public employees.
Addressing the concern of “attracting the best qualified citizens for the political job”, we may consider the proposition of this PDD thesis, and more specifically the suggestion of the Citizen’s Constitution on chapter 7. That is, when we the citizens, become legislators of our own laws, political executives do not need to be extraordinary leaders. Politicians simply need to properly follow the will of the electorate, not as leaders, but as administrators, or executive managers of government.
Ultimately, to make politicians truly accountable to citizens, we must have the right and the ability to recall them.
8.2 – Many progressive thinkers support, in principle, the idea of public forums, but do not support the voter’s right to recall politicians; implying that punishing a few politicians may not change the unwanted government’s policies.
Although this conclusion may be true under the current representative party system, it is not so under PDD, the fact remains that voting for politicians and voting for policy issues are two sides of the same coin. On the one side is the people’s choice of politicians, on the other side is the people’s choice of laws, policies, or bylaws; therefore, recalling an elected official and recalling a specific government policy are the same expression of the peoples’ right to choose.
Supporting public forums is obviously fundamental. Factual information and discussion period are essential to democracy, but it should not preclude the voter’s right to recall politicians. One action does not cancel or contradict the other. In fact they are complementary and the same in principle.
8.3 – Critics of PDD often comment that, “Politicians need a term of office to accomplish legislative work.” And that, “perpetual recall” would paralyze government work because politicians would be too busy, always looking over their shoulder, and perpetually campaigning to be re-elected.
If politicians are recalled while controversial legislation is being discussed, or before the completion of a project, we should question the politician’s decision and the project itself, rather than the citizens right to recall the politician in order to stop the unwanted decision. Entrusting politicians with the absolute legal authority to make any political decisions, regardless of whether the electorate agrees with it or not during a term of office is in fact, signing a blank cheque for any purpose. It legally means tying up the citizens’ hands, and letting politicians do almost whatever they please during their term of office. The right to recall makes politicians accountable to their constituents.
8.4 – It is understandable to hear politicians, who are potentially affected by recall-legislation, say: “voters should live with their mistaken choice till the next election.” What is most puzzling to hear is ordinary people advocating to punish themselves, for a term of 3 or 4 years, for a mistaken choice, made on one election day.
It is reasonable to expect that people will make electoral mistakes, by voting on quick reactions, or momentary emotional impulses, as we get saturated with media propaganda and misinformation at the last moment of casting our vote.
However, this human vulnerability, should not be the reason to punish ourselves to suffer the consequences of our mistake for years before we can rectify it, ironically when we have the computer technology available to recast our vote and potentially rectify any mistaken decisions instantly.
8.5 – Another common objection to referendum reasonably argues that the wording of the referendum questions as well as the context of the question are often skewed and convoluted enough to produce a leading or unintended outcome.
Referendum questions, usually written by highly educated teams of lawyers, can often be ambiguous and confusing. An example of a convoluted question was the 2011 HST referendum in BC where “Yes” meant to reject HST and “NO” meant to accept HST.
Seth Klein, director of the Centre for Canadian Policy Alternatives in BC, explains how important the context of a question can be, by noting that if people are asked: “Do you want to pay more taxes?” most likely, people are going to say “No”, but if the question were to include a context like: “ Do you want to increase your taxes in order to improve your health care services?” most people have unequivocally answered “Yes”.
One solution, to deal with the wording and the context of a referendum question, is presented by a pilot project at www.nowpolling.ca, where the citizens’ initiatives or questions, are written by the citizens themselves, in their own words, with their own context. The proposed Citizens’ Constitution, on Chapter 7, also suggests that, the formulating of a referendum questions should not come from an exclusive elite, but it should be originated from all citizens themselves.
8.6- The most common objection to PDD suggests that people do not know better, and therefore, when ignorant people are given the right to decide, they will shoot themselves on the foot.
The often cited case is Proposition 13 of the Constitution of the State of California, a People’s Initiative to Limit Property Taxation. The successful proposition decreased property taxes, bringing as a consequence, the inevitable and drastic reduction of public services.
Perhaps most Californians were not fully aware of the self-inflicting effects of reducing taxes. An initiative must be followed by as much factual information about the topic as possible, and a reasonable amount of time for public discussion, should be allowed before the final referendum is executed.
After the public is well informed, and a discussion period allowed, the referendum question can not be postponed indefinitely. A decision must be enacted.
The issue in this case is not whether voters select their best choice; the questions we need to investigate here are: first – was there sufficient factual information available? second – was there sufficient time allowed for discussion? and finally – do citizens have the right and the ability to rectify their mistaken votes when they change their mind? PDD points at www.nowpolling.ca as a potential solution.
8.7 – Many Social Democrats in Canada argue that “PDD” in the context of mass media being owned and operated by businesses’ interests, will be co-opted to serve as a tool for those with the financial resources to direct it.
Matthew Robinson expands on this issue in his book, “Mobocracy: How the Medias’ Obsession with Polling Twists the News, Alters Elections, and Undermines Democracy.”
This influential phenomenon of media may appear to be insurmountable and convincing, but If we believe that we are trapped between a conspiring elite, and a brainless mob, then there is no hope for the evolution of democracy. However, if we choose to believe in a “concrete utopia”, as Economist Ingo Schmidt explained, we don’t abandon our dreams in desperation, instead, we participate in the planning of possible solutions or “concrete utopias.”
8.8 – Politicians are One of the obstacles for change. Former politician himself Gordon Gibson explained that because politicians are the gate keepers of political change, recall and referendum would be in detrimental conflict with their self interests. Understandably, they want to keep the political power in their own hands, and therefore they are generally not interested in changing the very system which authorizes them to rule from above.
8.9 – Finally, we must be aware that politicians who object to extending power to the people, at the same time, have been and continue to gradually delegate their financial and international trading authority to transnational business associations under “Free Trade Agreements”, and financial and monetary cartels. This has been clearly demonstrated by the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank and more recently shown by the managers of the “Euro” ruling from above.
This dependency on a hierarchical chain of command, where most politicians only play a token role of leadership is explained by Nick Cowen in his book “Total Recall” where he shows how U.K. politicians have slowly ceded their powers to ministers, government agencies and the European Union.